Fiction Tuesday – Informed Stranger (The Darned Conspiracy, scene 18)

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Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

A sharp rap on the sleeper car door aroused Grimby from his slumber.

“Huh, wuzzat?” The dwarf sat up in his bunk, and hit his head on the overhead rack.

“Uh, hello?” Fineflin called out from above.

“Someone just banged on our door. Didn’t you hear it?”

The elf’s head appeared as he leaned over his bunk. He pointed to his ears, “I was listening to my relaxation audio. So I didn’t notice anything until you head caused my bunk to lift up.”

“Well they did.” The dwarf stood up, managing to avoid hitting his head a second time. “Wait, you listen to relaxation audio?”

Fineflin nodded, still hanging over the side of the bunk bed. “Four hours of the rinse cycle, followed by the rhythmic vibe of a dryer for another three. I use it when I’m trying to sleep in an unfamiliar place.”

“I guess I still learn something new every day. Flick on the light, would you?”

Fineflin’s head disappeared. A moment later the sleeper car’s overhead light flicked on, revealing an envelop which had been slid under the door. Grimby reached down and picked it up, he opened it and pulled out a single sheet of paper which contained a short hand-written note.

If you want to know about pennies come to compartment C14. Leave the elf behind.

Fineflin yawned. “It’s just as well that I don’t want to know about pennies, then.”

“Har har. Get your boots on, we’d better check this out.”

The elf stifled another yawn as he clamored out of his bunk. “Won’t bringing me along chase off whoever left the note? It seemed rather clear.”

Grimby snorted. “Like I care. I’m in on a strange train, and hunting down the people responsible for attacking The Realm’s power and economic infrastructures. I’m not going anywhere without backup.”

Fineflin shrugged. “That’s probably wise, though you could wake Bug up. He’s just down the hall.”

Grimby shook his head. “Look, it’s good to have Bug with us. We both know it, but last time I checked he wasn’t on the IBI payroll, we are. Besides, if anything happened to him Sindy would throw us off the tallest building she could find.”

The elf nodded. “Both true statements, I suppose. But if I show up this person is probably going to do a runner. It’s seems obvious they don’t trust elves.”

“Yah, well, they won’t see you. Will they?”

“What do you mean… oh no. Grimby, you can’t be serious.”

The dwarf grinned. “C car is just one car back. Get up and make like you’re using the shower or something. Then…”

“Climb out and get over to C car via the roof. Yes, we’ve done this before.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Grimby, we are in a tunnel. I don’t feel like being turned into an elf pancake.”

“So use the maintenance walks on the side of the train,” a new voice chimed in from the door frame. Bug had woken up and decided to see what the two agents were doing.

Grimby coughed, “Listen, Bug. We would have gotten you up but…”

“Yah, I’m not an agent. I get it. And you’re right, if either of you let anything to me Sindy would not be happy.” He smiled, a tinge of bitterness on his face. “So I’ll wait here while you two investigate. It’s the right thing to do, and I’m already out on a ledge by ditching my security.”

Fineflin bobbed his head. “So… maintenance walks?”

“Yah, the tunnel’s too low, even for gnomes, to get from car to car via the roof. So all the Gnomish trains in the mountains have a walk along the side. You should be able to make your way down to C14 in a few minutes.”

Grimby clapped his hands, “Great! Fineflin, you go. I’ll head out in just a bit.”

The elf nodded, grabbed a towel, and exited the compartment–turning toward the shower car. Grimby and Bug waited in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, neither wanting to talk, before the dwarf stood up and prepared to depart.

“Look, Bug, why don’t you just sign up to be an agent? You know Sills would love to have you.”

“Eh, Sindy might let me. But my days of going in the field are over. Sindy’d make sure I was chained to a desk, I’m sure. Heck, Sills is gonna catch three different kinds of fury for letting me help you this much.”

“Well, for what it’s worth. I think you’d make a good agent.”

“Yah? That’s nice. Now go before I knock you out and decide to go myself.”

A smirk creeped across Grimby’s face as he nodded and exited the compartment, turning right toward C car. He made his way down the aisle and passed between cars, about half way down the aisle he found compartment C14 and knocked.

“Come in, agent,” squeaked a voice from inside. Grimby slide open the door and stepped inside. He was greeted with an image of a young gnome sitting in the sleeper compartment’s chair. Out the window he saw Fineflin giving a thumbs up.

“So,” Bug said. “You’re the one who sent the message?”

“Did you leave the elf behind?”

Grimby pretended to look around the room. “I don’t see him. Do you?”

The young gnome shook his head. “I needed to be sure, they’re all in on it you know.”

Grimby’s brown wrinkled. “Oh? In on what?”

The gnome motioned to the bunk, “All in good time, agent. All in good time.”

“O…kay.” Grimby replied as he perched on the mattress. “So what should I call you?”

“Just call me MIT.”

“MIT? We’re your parents fond of baseball or something?”

The young gnome stomped his foot. “No! It’s not a name, it’s an acronym. It stands for ‘Mysterious Stranger on Train.’ Get it?”

Grimby nodded, “Shouldn’t it be MIOTT then?”

MIT scowled, “No! Look, do you want to know where the real pennies are coming from or not?”

Grimby paused, and then took a bit of a risk. “We know where the pennies are coming from MIT. They’re being brought in by Great Roll smugglers and hidden in delivery shipments.”

“Oh, agent, you have no idea.”

“Really?”

The gnome nodded, “Really.”

Grimby pulled out a notebook and pen and set himself in a writing posture. “So enlighten me.”